6/19/2003

I thought it might be a nice idea to add to the right of my blog a list of books which for no particular reason that I can think of are books which I highly rate without falling into the usual trap of listing stuff everyone is immediately familiar with. If I did that, it would be the usual suspects - Illuminatus, Dick, Snow Crash, Ellison, etc. Much more interesting would be a list of more obscure stuff which isn't immediately obvious but which, for whatever reasons, impinged on my young and fragile little mind in such a way that somehow, someway, created the freak typing these words into a computer. I'm thinking stuff that's known, and maybe you've read it, and maybe you haven't, but they are books which - for me at least - bear considerable repeated reading. Stuff like ... Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny. Or Going, Going, Gone, by Jack Womack, also Let's Put the Future Behind Us, by the same author. Also Falling Horizontal, by KW Jeter, a magnificent short novel that completely captured my imagination; a book a lot more people really ought to read.

Apart from that, sending myself out to slaughter on the roads of Glasgow on my new bike as usual. I watched an interview on British tv tonight with JK Rowling; I haven't read a single one of the Harry Potter books. A couple of reasons; I don't enjoy reading kid's books. Also, I find in most cases that books that are very popular - popular enough to be read by people who don't usually read books, Crichton et al, are, when I open the pages, usually the kind of books which could only be enjoyed by people who don't usually read books. Furthermore, I've read the first couple of pages of the first book ... and I just don't get the appeal. It's a kid's story, leave it to the kids. I should warn you, I read the first book in Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass series (whatever it's called) and didn't come away particularly impressed.

In fact, I think part of the motivation for putting up the list I mentioned is the sheer number of lousy rotten books I've been reading recently. Books which induce wall-denting moments - meaning that precise point where a book ceases to be a source of entertainment and becomes instead a missile aimed at the apparition of the idiot who wrote it. Believe me, there's been a lot of them.

I've never denied I've never been any kind of fan of 'high' fantasy, meaning that particular branch of literature which most closely resembles Lord of the Rings in terms of setting and subject matter. Every single time I read fantasy set in some made-up world of magic, I come away with the same sense of strong dissatisfaction. Every time your characters get stuck in a sticky situation, well, invent some spell to get them out. I include Lord of the Rings in this, by the way. Every now and then I pick up a copy in someone's house, listen to them rhapsodise about it, read a couple of pages, and come away truly and genuinely horrified that there are people out there who believe this is one of the greatest books ever written. You may not be greatly surprised to find I don't agree.

There are other words I can use, but this is a family blog. I don't even mind admitting this is exactly how shows like Angel and Buffy are written, but the point with them - what differentiates them from the teeming hordes - is the sheer panache and style of the writing and the visible strength of the characters, and therefore, in my mind, these shows are very much the exception. Very, very much so.
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